The initial effort in creating the Going-to-the-Sun Road avalanche atlas was underwritten by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This atlas is used by the Glacier National Park (GNP) Road Crew and USGS avalanche forecasters as a spatial tool for the Sun Road spring opening operations and used by other GNP personnel for infrastructure planning. The avalanche atlas is also extremely useful in safety and operation planning for the park’s road crew. It is valuable in enhancing avalanche hazard awareness and the understanding of avalanche science. Continued efforts on this project will include enhanced Geo PDF documents of the entire atlas that can be distributed electronically and used with minimal effort. This would include pop-up and linked photos to an image gallery on the USGS website or a DVD that contains these images. A “fly-through” of the Going to-the-Sun Road corridor with the use of Giga-pan images would provide a detailed product for park personnel as well as the general public. Continued efforts would also include a video and pod-cast detailing the avalanche forecasting program that includes a “fly-through”, the unique aspects of wet snow forecasting and an alternate perspective of the Sun Road aside from the standard plowing operations.
Avalanche path ecology is a relatively understudied field. Avalanche paths are a major part of mountain ecosystems and serve as an ecosystem within an ecosystem. Ecosystem functions are on the cusp of major transformations as our climate changes. Avalanche regimes may change with warming temperatures and altered precipitation patterns; thus, affecting the extent of avalanche paths. A change in avalanche path size and extent has far-reaching implications which include a change in vegetation type and quantity as will as large mammal habitat and hydrologic changes. Initial data were collected in the summer of 2009 on the Little Granite avalanche path along the Sun Road. Vegetation surveys were completed and cross-sections from dead trees were obtained to determine avalanche frequency over time and space. Further research would include more dendro-chronological (tree-ring) data collection and the use of Geographic Information Systems for mapping avalanche paths within Glacier National Park since 1960. Funds to complete this project would allow for a comprehensive study of avalanche path morphology over the past 50 years using aerial photographs, satellite imagery and ground-based measurements. Funds would also provide documentation on the surface area of the park that is made up of avalanche paths.